Rescue Me - Season 1
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary For First And Last Episode With Show Creators Denis Leary And Peter Tolan; Blooper Reel; Behind The Scenes Featurettes; Deleted Scenes.
HOLLYWOOD’S depictions of firemen tend towards being over-sentimental affairs that play up the heroism and sacrifice of this noble profession.
How refreshing, therefore, to find Rescue Me presenting a warts-and-all depiction of life at a New York fire station in the wake of September 11, 2001. For Dennis Leary’s excellent ensemble series – which can be found on FX Channel in the US and Sky One in the UK – is a brilliant show that arguably deserves a much wider audience than it probably has already.
The series focuses on the lives of the men and women who serve Ladder 62, principally Tommy Gavin (Leary), a foul-mouthed, hot-tempered womaniser who is falling apart at the seams. Still suffering from the events of 9/11 – which cost some of his crew their lives – Tommy also has to contend with the wayward lives of most of his colleagues, his own screwed up love affairs and his ever-increasing feelings of guilt.
He is separated from his wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), who now lives across the road from him, but has begun to fool around with various women, including the ex-wife of his late cousin, despite the fact that such romantic liaisons are frowned upon by his colleagues.
What’s more, his only form of solace seems to come in the conversations he keeps having with his late cousin, Jimmy (James McCaffrey), who was one of those who perished during the World Trade Center attacks.
But if Tommy’s grip on reality seems tenuous, then his fellow crew members are equally on the edge. For they include a compulsive gambler and bigot Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee); cocky, Puerto Rican ladies’ man Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata); newcomer Mike Silletti (Mike Lombardi); and good-looking but dim Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale), who is frequently the butt of many jokes.
The trials and tribulations of these characters unfolded in ever more outlandish fashion over the course of 13 episodes, building up to the inevitably powerful season finale in which Tommy is effectively ostracised by his colleagues and a rescue turns bad for one of the crew.
Yet along the way, the series consistently mixed black humour with incredible moments of poignancy, succeeding in delivering a fascinating insight into the troubled lives of the men who served the fire station.
Rescue Me was notable in America for being one of the first series to tackle the events of 9/11 head on. It didn’t shy away from controversy and relished the opportunity of presenting its lead characters as flawed heroes who weren’t always easy to like given some of their actions. It even hinted at a resentment of the fire service by members of the other emergency services.
It characters were richly-drawn with Tommy, especially, providing an incendiary presence, whether bribing his kids to keep an eye on his ex-wife, or sleeping around with women without a care for their feelings. His fragile mental state became a focal point of the latter episodes as his actions took on an increasingly self-destructive capacity.
As both series creator and star, Leary deserves the utmost praise for tackling such a potentially hot potato, yet given his family background within the fire service, you can pretty much tell that this was a labour of love. It’s just a shame that the show hasn’t been recognised with a few more awards nominations, given the quality to be found in almost every episode.
Breathtaking moments in season one included the occasional flashbacks to the events of 9/11, as well as Tommy’s attempts to deal with a killer and his decaying personal situation (especially when trashing his house during a fit of rage).
While much humour came from the firemen’s cruel jokes on each other (a lot of them sexual), as well as their inability to cope with the presence of a new female recruit late on.
A second season of Rescue Me has recently come to an end in America and is due to air on Sky One later this month. If you haven’t been hooked just yet, then we’d urge you to get on board immediately. This is undoubtedly one of the hottest shows on TV at the moment and the deserved acclaim surrounding it shows no sign of cooling just yet.